Giving Compass' Take: 

• A panel discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation discussed with leaders of local governments how they can utilize data and digital technology to better hear the needs of their communities. 

• How can data help communities? Where are there gaps in what technology can do for neighborhoods? 

• Read about how improving workforce technology and working in tandem with governments will strengthen systems and help put people back to work. 

According to Brian Kenner, DC’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, those are the most pressing questions facing city leaders now, and they will only get more urgent in the future.  Kenner summed up these challenges at the end of a recent panel discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation.

Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden opened the event, describing how her job is to “build people,” ensuring that the most overlooked residents have the opportunities to achieve economic success.  This focus on people, rather than traditional government functions like transportation or economic development, allows her office to connect a range of programs in different departments.

The discussion of working across – and even breaking up – government silos continued during the panel, which included Deputy Mayor Kenner, Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and current Harvard Kennedy School professor, and Scott Kratz, Director of DC-based community development non-profit 11 th Street Bridge Park.

Mayor Goldsmith stressed the transformative predictive capabilities city governments now have.  In Los Angeles, for example, officials have used data on sanitary conditions to understand discrepancies in neighborhood service delivery.

The use of data alone is insufficient, though.  New governance models depend on careful listening to communities, often through the use of social media, surveys, and other digital platforms that can engage residents at more frequent intervals and show trends in how services are used.

Throughout the conversation panelists noted two tensions inherent in citizen engagement:  the long time needed to build trust, and the simultaneous need to demonstrate impact rapidly, and the diversity of voices within a community.

Read the full article about local leaders embrace technological tools by Elena Bell at The Aspen Institute